Interview with Che Guevara Lynch

By Arthur Quinlan

Last October much publicity surrounded the thirtieth anniversary of the death of legendary revolutionary, Che Guevara. Known as Dr. Che Guevara Lynch to his Irish supporters, the Argentinean had helped bring Fidel Castro to power in Cuba before being murdered by Bolivian troops while trying to spark off a revolution there. In death he became the revolutionary icon of the 1960s. Two years previously he was in Ireland and, according to John Horgan of the Sunday Tribune, was the subject of "one of the great missed scoops of Irish journalism". Quin native and veteran 'Irish Times' reporter, Arthur Quinlan, now sets the record straight, thirty three years to the day that he met Guevara.

Far from being "one of the great missed scoops of Irish journalism", as so described in the Sunday Tribune, Dr. Che Guevara, the Latin American revolutionary was interviewed by me when he arrived at Shannon Airport on Saturday, March 13th, 1965.
He was with a group of 71 passengers on a Cuban Airlines Britannia aircraft which developed mechanical trouble on arrival from Prague on the way to Havana. He was accompanied by his fellow revolutionary, Dr. Osmani Cienfuegos, the Cuban Minister for Construction and some other Cuban friends who were government officials.
I was alerted to the arrival by an American journalist, Bob Loughlin, who had a small PR business with an office at the Shannon Development Company. I later suspected that he may have been a member of the C.l.A.. He would not tell me on the telephone the name of the VIP until I arrived at the airport.
Then, Mr. Loughlin explained that it was Che Guevara but warned that he would say that he did not speak English.
I had little trouble in recognising Castro's Comandante of the Revolution at the Airport Hotel. However, as expected he indicated that he did not speak English .
"Anybody whose maternal grandparents were Lynches wither speaks Gaelic or English. Which is it to be", I said to him with a smile. He returned my smile and suggested that we walk out by the lagoon behind the hotel.
I did not learn very much from him for he would not speak on politics or where he had been. Later it was learned that he had been to the former Belgian Congo leading a covert but unsuccessful intervention in their civil war and was on his way home.
Dr. Guevara talked of his Irish connections through the name Lynch. He said, if I recall, that his grandparents or great-grandparents on his mothers side had left Galway for the Argentine. His were a well off family in the city of Alta Gracia and he qualified as a Doctor.
His name was Ernesto but he was given the nickname Che when he began to mix with Cubans. The Cubans usually put this tag on Argentineans in the same way that the Irish are sometimes called Paddys.
He was 37 years old when I met him at Shannon and when the "ice was broken" he wanted to go with a few friends to "see the night life". Later that Saturday he went to Limerick City and adjourned to the Hanratty's Hotel on Glentworth Street. They returned that evening all wearing sprigs of Shamrock, for Shannon and Limerick were preparing for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
Later he met up with Bernie Brennan, an Irish American journalist from a Miami newspaper who had been a guest of the late Vincent Tobin, who was then Press Relations Manager with the Shannon Development Company. Mr. Brennan had spent much time in Cuba and it was generally believed that he was something of a "double agent" who had served the American C.l.A..
It was understood from those who were present that his was something of an uneasy meeting with the Cuban revolutionary. He left the hotel with Mr. Tobin and Dr Che Guevara and his friends flew on to Havana the next day. The Cuban aircraft has returned from the Bristol Britannia company in England where repairs had been carried out.



Clare or Galway?

 By Joe O'Muircheartaigh

In the mid eighties a newspaper carried a story about a man born in 1928 by the name of Ernesto Guevara Lynch. The report honed in on the Irish connections of a remarkable man who was feared, respected and known the world over. The revolutionary exploits of one Che Guevara were the stuff of legend.
He was a real life rebel in the mould Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the famous outlaws immortalised on screen by Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Having resettled in Bolivia, they finally perished in the face of bullets from Bolivian soldiers. Guevara was to suffer the same fate.
The similarities didn't end there. Butch and Sundance were figures of love and hate, as was Che. Love him or hate him, you can't ignore him. That was Che Guevara Lynch.
In Central and Latin America he stood as a symbol against American economic policies. He then wanted to take this opposition further in the shape of armed insurrection. He did this and in death became the martyr of international revolution.
To this day, posters, tee shirts and broaches of this rebel, who always seemed to have a cause, are as popular as ever. He represented the radicalism in the 1960s and to some he is still seen as the man who challenged authority and won. The cries of 'Viva Che', heard so loudly during the student riots in Paris in 1968 can still be identified with some thirty years later.
Where did it all come from. Che's father, Don Ernesto Guevara Lynch, put the revolutionary instincts which led him to Cuba, the Congo and ultimately to death in Bolivia-down to his Irish ancestry. "The first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels", he said in a 1969 interview.
He went on: "Che inherited some of the features of our restless ancestors. There was something in his nature which drew him to distant wandering, dangerous adventures and new ideas".
These ideas prompted him to turn his back on medicine and rugby. He had graduated from Buenos Aires National University as a doctor in 1953 and at that stage was being touted as possible rugby international. There is no record of him ever playing hurling, even though hurling flourished in Buenes Aires up until the 1 940s.
His position was scrum half, the "Petit Generale" like Jack Fouroux. However, he ultimately left rugby in favour of being a general of revolution. As a self-titled 'Soldier of the Americas' he was playing for a bigger team and for higher stakes.
The stakes were never any higher than when he landed in Cuba in 1956.
Guevara was working as a reporter in Mexico when he met Fidel and Raul Castro. The rest was history - he sailed with the Castros to launch the Cuban Revolution, became a Cuban citizen and a government minister.
But what of his Irishness. The common currency doing the rounds is that Guevara's Irish links can be traced to Galway. Patricio Lynch, the founder of the Argentine branch of his family, was said to be born in Galway in 1715. From there
he spent some time in Spain before eventually settling in Argentina. The Lynch name has been there ever since.
Another theory is that Che's Irishness was not that far removed and that his grandparents or great-grandparents on his mother's side (as alluded to by Arthur Quinlan and others) were born in Ireland.
And was it definitely Galway ? Well, the aforementioned newspaper report has the compass pointed further south, in Clare to precise. It suggested that Che Guevara's ancestors actually hailed from the Kilkee area of West Clare.
The article also claimed that Guevara had visited Kilkee as a young man - in his pre revolutionary days - in the company of his mother and spent some time in the old Victoria Hotel.
That such a visit actually took place is not outside the bounds of possibility. It is well documented that during his medical training, Guevara developed a passion for travel - a passion that could be satisfied in his younger days because of family wealth.
It could be that he travelled to Ireland in the company of his mother who may have been keen to trace their Irish links. And, there are plenty of Lynch's in West Clare. Maybe somebody out there knows the real answer.

e-mail : editor@clarechampion.ie



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